Bridges are more than just practical objects that connect one place to another. Sometimes they live in literature, like in the Bridges of Madison County, where they serve as a jumping-off point for romance. Bridges also create an aesthetic beauty all their own, through their architecture and the specific details about a single bridge that can impart a sense of place. Bridges throughout the Smokies offer unique opportunities for rest, reflection, and proximity to calming waters that make them well worth a visit.
Check Out the Swinging Bridges
On Old State Highway 73, you’ll find a piece of Eastern Tennessee history. The Dark Island Swinging Bridge was once one of about 20 swinging bridges over the Little River, when it was used by lumber company and railroad workers at the turn of the 20th century to connect the land used for mills and manufacturing with homes on the other side of the banks.
Nowadays you can stand on the bridge and watch people tubing down the river. Some days the water is clear enough that fish can be spotted, just by looking down from the bridge. The bridge is also a romantic destination, too – couples hang padlocks with their initials carved on them onto the bridge, and throw away the key into the rushing river, as a gesture of eternal fidelity.
There’s reportedly another swinging bridge in the area, but the location is a closely guarded secret. You’ll have to make connections with an “old timer” of the Smokies to find it!
Another Secret Bridge
Just like the famed lost city of Atlantis, the Abrams Creek Underwater Bridge near old US Highway 129, in Chilhowee Lake (no, not on Chilhowee Lake) only appears when the water level in the lake is quite low. You can find it when the dam undergoes scheduled maintenance, and possibly in times of extreme drought. Despite its constant soaking, when the bridge does appear it’s apparently quite safe and walkable.
Cades Cove Bridges
The bridges of the famously scenic Cades Cove live up to the area’s picturesque reputation. Both built in 1948, the Laurel Creek Bridge on Cades Cove Road and the Middle and West Prong Little River Bridges are moss-covered stone bridges open to traffic. The water level below each of them varies with the seasons, but they’re all generally calm, charming places to step away from the Cades Cove Loop Road, relax, and take in the ambience.
Grab Your Camera, The Bridges Will Wait
Next time you’re looking for a unique way to spend the day out and about, grab your camera, hunt down these bridges, and snag a few shots for posterity (or maybe just for social media!). Don’t be afraid to take a selfie, either – you’ve got a great backdrop!